U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne speak to the press after talks in Washington on May 13, supporting the ongoing investigation to get to the bottom of what happened in the new pandemic.
The 12-day report of the Independent Panel on Pandemic Preparedness and Response, established last July to find the primary cause of the new pandemic, calls on the international community to immediately implement a series of bold recommendations to redistribute, fund and increase vaccine supply and production capacity, and to urgently and consistently apply proven public health measures in every country to end the new pandemic. public health measures to end the New Crown pandemic. The panel was co-chaired by former New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark and former Liberian President Ellen Sirleaf Johnson. The report said the World Health Organization should have declared a global emergency much earlier, adding that without urgent changes, the world would have been vulnerable to another major disease outbreak.
At Thursday’s press conference, a reporter from Sky News asked, “Secretary Blinken, are you satisfied with the findings of the Clark report and do you support further investigation? For Secretary Payne, as well, but given the economic impact that Australia is facing, would you also consider a further investigation?” The journalist said, “On the point of human rights violations in China, we still have two Australians detained in China, Yang Hengjun and Cheng Lei. That has serious repercussions. In light of that, do you still continue to support an investigation into the origins (of the New Crown outbreak), as we called for so early on?”
Blinken replied, “No, not satisfied with the initial investigation; yes, supporting the ongoing investigation to get to the bottom of the New Crown outbreak incident.” He said, “It’s very important because if we’re going to have the best chance of preventing it from happening again and ensuring that we can build a stronger global health security system to ensure that we can prevent, detect and mitigate future pandemics, we need to understand what happened. And that has to start with understanding exactly what happened.” He said, “The issue is not so much about finger-pointing as it is about understanding what happened so that we can take effective action for the future. There needs to be accountability, but especially there needs to be understanding.”
Blinken said, “We do know that in the early days of the pandemic, China did not allow for timely access to international experts, timely information sharing and, most importantly, true transparency. These must be the features of the system going forward. All countries have a responsibility to sign up.” So we need to see more information to have a real understanding of what’s happening,” he said. And then, including with China, we need to take action to strengthen the international system to make sure that all of us are better protected so that the next time this happens, the situation is not as it is now.”
Payne said, “I think your question has two parts.” She said, “First, there was a global study convened by the WHO on the origin of the new coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2), and as its title says, this is the report that was released on March 31. I think our reaction at the time was to say that we certainly appreciated the efforts of the scientific experts involved in leading this effort under very difficult circumstances, including the Australian expert, Professor Dominic Dwyer, but we were concerned that the task itself was being seriously delayed and that complete and original data and samples would not be available.”
Payne said, “And we issued a statement at the time, along with a number of other interested countries, including the United States, expressing our concern about these delays. That has not changed. In fact, it reinforces the importance of the recommendation made by Australia last April that there should be an independent, international and objective review of the New Crown outbreak, its origins and impact.” She continued, “Secondly, while the release of the report of the Independent Panel on Pandemic Preparedness and Response, led by former New Zealand Prime Minister Clark and former Liberian President Sirleaf, we welcome this very comprehensive report.”
Payne said, “Just three weeks ago, maybe a month ago, I met with Clark in New Zealand, and again, its candid assessment of the global community’s preparedness and pandemic management, and the recommendations for action that it contains, we absolutely support the fact that those recommendations are being taken very seriously. There are a number of recommendations, including those related to the international health regulatory structure, as Blinken mentioned, built around strengthening the independence and authority of the WHO.”
Payne said, “Interestingly, there are also comments about the lack of authority of the WHO in terms of its ability to do the job expected of it, including recommendations to increase the independence and authority of the WHO so that they have clear authority to investigate pathogens with pandemic potential, to publish information about those potential outbreaks, and to take immediate action without the need for prior government s approval. There was some discussion at some stage last year about what inspection and reporting powers the WHO should have.” She said, “I think the findings of the independent panel are a very important conclusion in moving forward to ensure that we avoid the experience that the world, this country, our country and so many other countries have had to deal with in recent times and the enormous loss of life that it has caused.”